Dare To Invent The Future

Thomas Sankara

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Full quote: "You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future."

Thomas Sankara (1949-1987) was a Burkinabé socialist revolutionary, anti-imperialist, Pan-Africanist and President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987. He is commonly referred to as "Africa's Che Guevara". 

After being appointed President in 1983, Sankara launched an ambitious plan to achieve social and economic change, and tackle government corruption. In just 4 years of presidency, he increased the literacy rate from 13% to 73%, planted over 10 million trees to prevent desertification, vaccinated 2.5 million children against meningitis, yellow fever and measles in a matter of weeks, and much more, all while cutting down inflated government employee salaries, including his own. Sankara also shed the country's colonial name of Upper Volta and renamed it Burkina Faso, which means "the land of upright men".

Notably, Sankara was dedicated to gender equality. He cultivated a movement for women's liberation, and outlawed female genital mutilation, forced marriages and polygamy. He was the first African leader to appoint women to key political positions and actively recruit them to the military. 

Sankara was President until October 15, 1987, when he was assassinated in a coup d'état. He was just 37.

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Nikol Chen (she/her)

Digital Content Manager, Laidlaw Foundation

Hello! My name is Nikol and I look after the Laidlaw Scholars Network.

I am originally from Kazakhstan and I studied Human Sciences at UCL. My final research explored the potential effects of design on patient wellbeing in hospitals, and I also took modules such as Ethnographic Documentary Filmmaking, Anthropology of the Built Environment, Art in the Public Sphere, and other less interesting-sounding things :)

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